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This the second film about iconic football manager, Brian Clough, following 2009's "The Dammed United", which portrayed his disastrous 44 day tenure at the helm of Leeds United. "I Believe in Miracles" begins with the famous 1974 "Calendar" interview with Clough in the immediate aftermath of his sacking. See more »
Feelgood Documentary That Might Have been Conceived Better
I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES tells the story of a footballing miracle, for the most part achieved without spending vast amounts of money. In 1974 Brian Clough was sacked as manager of Leeds United after only 45 days ( a subject explored in Peter Morgan's THAT DAMNED UNITED). At a low point in an otherwise distinguished career, he took over at Nottingham Forest, then a mid-table Second Division club with few aspirations. Within a short time he not only secured promotion to the old First Division, but took the club to two consecutive triumphs in the European Champions Cup.
Jonny Owen's documentary tells this story with contributions from many of the players involved including John Robertson, John O'Hare, Archie Gemmill, Larry Lloyd, Garry Birtles and Kenneth (aka Kenny) Burns. To be honest, their comments are roughly similar in tone, attesting to Clough's remarkable skill as a person manager, allied to a naive belief that soccer is at heart a simple game played with passion and commitment. With Peter Taylor at his side (renewing a partnership that worked highly successfully at Derby County), Clough created a genuine team wherein everyone played for one another, for the most part with players who hitherto had led undistinguished careers. He did make some big-name signings such as the first £1m. transfer involving Trevor Francis, but otherwise he made effective use of low-cost players.
Clough was also a highly effective media performer. In these days of anodyne comments mediated through club media officers, it's refreshing to see just how blunt Clough actually was. He had a unique ability to answer the interviewer's' often banal questions, as well as point out the media's prejudices against Nottingham Forest for being an "unfashionable" club. On the other hand he was an incurable optimist, projecting a positive view of the future that could inspire players and viewers alike.
The story told in I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES is an effective one; the presentation less so. Director Owen's penchant for using late Seventies/ early Eighties music as a soundtrack is a good idea, but sometimes becomes intrusive, deflecting our attention away from the (highly entertaining) footage of Forest's games. The film seems too concerned to fit the narrative into wearyingly familiar tropes; hence when Forest play Cologne (Köln) in the first European Cup campaign, Owen sees the entire event as a replay of World War II - Britain against Germany - and uses the theme from THE GREAT ESCAPE. By the late Seventies memories of the War were becoming fainter and fainter as Britain tried to make its way in the EEC.
The film's ending seems somewhat rushed: we learn little about Forest's second European Cup campaign; nor do we find out about Clough's later career at Forest, when he fell out with Peter Taylor and suffered the humiliation of the club's being relegated. Nonetheless the story is an entertaining one, an evocation of a time when soccer was not the money-bloated sport it seems to be today.
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